from the oops dept
Remember Rightscorp? This is the company that is trying to be sort of a “light” copyright trolling operation, sending threatening letters to individuals, but letting them “settle” for lower dollar amounts than the more traditional copyright trolls (in the $10s of dollars rather than in the $1000s). The scheme hasn’t been working all that well. Late last year, Righstcorp, along with two music publishing clients, BMG and Round Hill Music, decided to sue broadband ISP Cox, to test the (nutty) theory that the DMCA already requires ISPs to kick users off the internet if they receive multiple takedown notices. The whole lawsuit, beyond the questionable legal theory, appeared to be an attempt to force Cox and others to hand over subscriber info.
Either way, going after Cox may be proving to have been a serious strategic mistake. Both companies have filed motions for summary judgment and the contrast between the two is somewhat stunning. BMG/Round Hill Music’s is readable here* and basically focuses on the argument that Cox is somehow unable to make use of the DMCA’s safe harbors. While many of the details are redacted, the basic argument is the same as initially filed. That because Cox doesn’t kick customers off its service entirely, it fails to meet the requirements of the DMCA’s safe harbor:
Cox does not qualify for a safe harbor because, at least since 2010, it has never had nor
implemented a policy to terminate repeat infringers in appropriate circumstances. Instead, Cox
has created a notification system designed to limit the circumstances in which Cox will learn of
infringement on its system. Cox has [REDACTED] more than 95% of the millions
of infringement notices sent to it by copyright holders without taking any action.
Of course what it’s ignoring is that what Cox was complaining about was that the policies that Rightscorp wanted here included sending blatantly misleading information to end users and sharing information back with Rightscorp. That’s not required under the DMCA.
Meanwhile, the motion for summary judgment from Cox is quite a read, with the folks over at TorrentFreak posting an initial summary.
The real kicker: Rightscorp is only working with the publishers, who certainly appear to hold a legitimate copyright interest in the publishing/compositions. But that’s different than the copyright in the actual sound recordings. That’s held by someone else, who does not appear to be partnered with Rightscorp. And yet, Rightscorp itself claims to have downloaded the various song files to help it find infringers. Yet… if it doesn’t have authorization or a license from the copyright holders of the sound recordings, that sounds like Rightscorp just engaged in massive copyright infringement.
That, alone, would be a pretty strong point — but then Cox’s lawyers twist the knife. They point out that the only way in which Rightscorp’s own actions would not be infringing is if they were to claim fair use in the downloading of all those song recordings. But if that’s the case, then isn’t Rightscorp clearly admitting that many of the people its threatening and shaking down would also have a legitimate fair use argument?
Oh, and one final knife twist: given that courts have held that those issuing DMCA takedowns need to take into account fair use before sending those takedowns, this would act as evidence that Rightscorp failed to do that.
In its work for Plaintiffs Rightscorp downloaded files of thousands of sound recordings
over the BitTorrent protocol, evidently to create evidence of infringements over Cox?s network…. But copyrights in sound recordings are separate from copyrights in musical
compositions…. Rightscorp either committed massive infringements of the sound
recording copyrights or must have relied on the fair use doctrine. If the latter, that fact is an
admission that activity over BitTorrent may constitute fair use, but there is no evidence that
Rightscorp considered the possibility of fair use in generating millions of notices of claimed
infringement. Because fair use is not infringement, Rightscorp?s notices contained fraudulent
misrepresentations about detections of infringement. See Lenz….
Thus, because Rightscorp acting as agent for Plaintiffs either was an infringer itself or engaged in
misrepresentations, Plaintiffs have unclean hands.
Ouch. It will be fun to see these companies try to twist themselves out of that one. The rest of the filing is worth reading as well, and we may do some followup posts on other aspects included. But, in short, Cox points out that the legal theories here make no sense, that the company abused the DMCA process, there there is no evidence of actual infringement and that the publishers failed to actually mitigate any of the damages. You never know how the courts will eventually rule on these things, but from a first glance, Rightscorp’s chances aren’t looking too good right now.
* Correction: I originally got confused and posted the wrong document here — but the right document has now been posted.
Filed Under: bittorrent, copyright, copyright infringement, copyright trolling, fair use, sound recordings
Companies: bmg, cox, righscorp, round hill music